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What Are Cannabinoids and What Do They Do?


It’s common knowledge that cannabis can have certain effects on the body and mind, and this is all thanks to natural compounds called cannabinoids. But what are cannabinoids, exactly? What do cannabinoids do and what kinds of effects can they trigger? In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about the different types of cannabinoids.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Let’s begin with a basic answer to the question “What are cannabinoids?” In short, cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found inside cannabis plants. They’re key parts of the plant’s biological and chemical structure, as they’re the parts that can interact with the human body and produce certain effects, like pain relief or anxiety relief.

There are multiple types of cannabinoids, and some examples include THC and CBD. So, if you’ve ever wondered about “Is THC a cannabinoid?” the answer is yes. Each cannabinoid is different and can be responsible for different cannabis effects. We can also divide cannabinoids into groups like synthetic or phytocannabinoids.

types of cannabinoids

What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids? 

As the name suggests, synthetic cannabinoids are cannabinoids that are man-made. Created in laboratory environments, these chemicals are designed to imitate natural cannabinoids like THC and CBD. They may be able to produce certain effects like relaxation or sedation and are used in similar ways to regular cannabinoids.

Synthetic cannabinoids can take various forms, like solids or oils. They can be mixed together with plant cuttings and herbs to form cannabis-like equivalent products for smoking. A famous example of a synthetic cannabinoid is Spice, but there are many other types and names out there, and they work in similar ways to natural cannabinoids.

What Are Phytocannabinoids? 

The term “phytocannabinoids” effectively means natural cannabinoids. It refers to any cannabinoids that are naturally occurring within the cannabis plant or other plants that contain cannabinoids. The cannabis plant is responsible for producing around 100 different cannabinoids in total. Each one has a slightly different chemical structure.

CBD and THC are the two most famous examples of phytocannabinoids, but there are others on the cannabinoid chart, like the CBC cannabinoid, as well as CBG, CBN, CBDA, and so on. These marijuana cannabinoids can be ingested or consumed in various ways and interact with the endocannabinoid system.

The Endocannabinoid System 

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a natural system present inside every human body. It’s a very complex cell-signaling system that has a huge range of roles and functions. There are still things that we don’t know about the ECS, but science has linked it with aspects like sleep, appetite, mood, pain, immune response, metabolic rate, and more.

The ECS is comprised of three main components:

  • Endocannabinoids – Endocannabinoids are like the body’s own version of cannabinoids. They’re molecules that the body makes to interact with the ECS and trigger certain effects.
  • Endocannabinoid Receptors – The receptors are the parts of the ECS that receive or bond with endocannabinoids and then send signals throughout the system to make certain things happen.
  • Enzymes – The final component is the enzymes. The enzymes exist to simply break down the endocannabinoids once they have served their purpose, freeing up the receptors to receive another endocannabinoid in the future.

How Many Types of Cannabinoids Are There?

We can divide cannabinoids in various ways, so it’s hard to say how many there really are. There are medicinal cannabinoids, for example, as well as recreational cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, and endogenous cannabinoids. If we’re referring purely to unique types of cannabinoids inside the cannabis plant, experts suggest there are over 100.

list of cannabinoids

What Do Cannabinoids Do?

So, what do cannabinoids actually do to humans? Well, the key aspect of cannabinoids that makes them so interesting in regard to humans is that they’re very similar in terms of their size and structure to our own endocannabinoids. Because of this, cannabinoids like THC and CBD are able to interact with our ECS and trigger certain effects.

What Do Cannabinoids Do to the Body?

Once inside the body, cannabinoids can bind with ECS cannabinoid receptors or interact with the system and other ways, producing a wide range of physical and mental changes, such as:

  • Feelings of well-being and happiness 
  • Feelings of euphoria 
  • Pain relief 
  • Anxiety and stress relief 
  • Feelings of calmness and relaxation 
  • Mood alterations 
  • Increased appetite 

There are various other health benefits of cannabinoids, as well as some potential side effects, and the exact effects a person experiences will depend on their own physiology, as well as the type and quantity of cannabinoids they consume or the unique marijuana strains they use.

Where Can They Be Found?

Cannabinoids can be found in cannabis plants and cannabis products sold at any cannabis dispensary. This includes everything from joints, blunts, and pipes filled with cannabis to products that are made from cannabis plants or cannabis derivatives, like CBD oil and THC gummies. Of course, cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid form can also be found within our bodies naturally.

Are Cannabinoids Legal?

This is a bit of a gray area, as the rules and laws around cannabis and cannabis products can vary wildly from place to place and are subject to rapid changes. In short, the legality of cannabinoid products will vary based on your location. Some states and regions allow certain cannabinoid products to be sold and the FDA has even approved certain drugs that contain specific cannabinoids for medical use.

what are cannabinoids

List of Major Cannabinoids and their Effects

Next, let’s take a look at a list of cannabinoids and see what they can do.

  1. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – One of the most potent and famous cannabinoids, THC is able to produce strong effects like pain relief and appetite increases, but is also associated with the feeling of being “high” and can trigger intense euphoria and mood changes.
  2. Cannabidiol (CBD) – CBD is commonly referred to as the milder sibling of THC. It produces a lot of the same beneficial effects, such as stress relief, anxiety relief, and pain relief, but it doesn’t get people high.
  3. Cannabinol (CBN) – Cannabinol is quite a newly discovered cannabinoid without much research into its effects, but it is believed that this is one of the only cannabinoids (as well as THC) to have psychoactive effects. It may produce a mild high and help people feel sleepy.
  4. Cannabichromene (CBC) – Cannabichromene is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, but it’s still quite a powerful one. It has been suggested that this cannabinoid can offer benefits to the brain, helping new cells grow, as well as providing pain relief and inflammation relief.
  5. Cannabigerol (CBG) – CBG is believed to have effects that influence a person’s general mood. It can allegedly help to enhance pleasure sensations and make a person feel more motivated, while also affecting appetite, sleep, and pain sensations.

What Are the Health Benefits of Cannabinoids?

From a health perspective, cannabinoids can have a range of benefits and uses:

  • Pain relief – Cannabinoids can ease pain and suffering for people with chronic pains and illnesses
  • Mental health – Cannabinoids may also be to alleviate symptoms associated with conditions like anxiety and depression
  • Nausea – Cannabinoids are often used to ease feelings of nausea in cancer patients
  • Treatment – Cannabinoids can be used to treat certain conditions, from epilepsy to cancer 
  • Blood pressure – Some studies have also suggested that cannabinoids like CBD can be used to lower blood pressure levels

These are just some examples of what cannabinoids can do. Contact our dispensary if you’d like to learn more or purchase products that might be able to help you.

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